MANILA - An official of the Department of Agriculture said the price of sugar is expected to go down following the clearing of imports.
Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban estimates that the retail price of refined sugar will slightly go down to P80-85 per kilo in two weeks' time.
This was after he ordered the Sugar Regulatory Administration to issue clearances to the imported sugar, which was earlier flagged for being smuggled.
Sugar prices currently range from P87-110 per kilo, based on monitoring from the Department of Agriculture.
"Binigyan na ng clearance ng SRA eh. The sugar will lower the price of the commercial sugar in the Philippines. It will be 80-85 pesos per kilo in two weeks," Panganiban said.
The memorandum clears the imported sugar to be transported from ports to warehouses of three handpicked importers.
However, these imports need to be reclassified from 'reserve' to 'domestic use' sugar before being sold in markets.
SRA clarified that the volume of sugar authorized by Panganiban in January, or a month before the sugar order was finalized, will now fall under Sugar Order No. 6.
This is to ensure that the volume of imports will not be doubled.
"Yung idea po ni Senior Usec actually, and yung hinihiling ng farmers natin to have only one program, we will have too much volume if two separate programs and then jf that happens, magiging kawawa ang farmers," SRA Board Member Pablo Azcona said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who first exposed the issue, criticized Panganiban's move.
"Ika nga, ang isda ay sa bibig nahuhuli. Totoo iyan, kahit sa smuggling ng asukal. Sa mismong memo ng DA lumalabas ang katotohanan - na matataas na opisyal ang nasa likod ng binubuong cartel at smuggling ring sa suplay ng asukal sa bansa. We should not ignore this 'smoking gun' proof of government-sponsored sugar smuggling being coordinated at the highest levels of bureaucracy," her statement read.
Rafael Coscolluela, a former administrator of SRA, meanwhile said Panganiban's move was irregular.
"You cannot help but question the possibility of a secret deal made with those 3 traders. There's a possibility a case of violation of RA3019 can be brought against Usec Panganiban because he granted undue benefits to only a few favored traders," he said.